We gathered in Hermann Park in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. We were dressed in Cougar Red, and some of us had sweatshirts with the Bauer logo. We were honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK).
When MLK led the great march to Washington, no one had a GPS, nor was there social media to publicize events. Yet people gathered in the thousands to listen to him. When he spoke, his message was simple and appealing — racial injustice goes against everything that is natural; it defies the law of nature. It was a simple truth, and people listened.
When we met at Hermann Park, our students had a simple goal — to serve. And they did.
The people at the park explained to us that we would help replant some of the trees that had been placed in the wrong spots. We separated into two groups, one to dig holes so we could lower the trees into the ground, and another to dig the tree out of its current location. I was part of the first group. I had about six students with me — they were all Bauer students as were several in the groups next to us. As always, I am struck by how smart and courteous students are. Importantly today, they focused on service. We talked about Bauer College and our challenges; we talked about recruitment and placements; we discussed the perception of Bauer College outside Houston.
As I listened to each student share their stories, I was awed. These youngsters had bold dreams and a passion to do what it takes. They have career goals, and they are focused. They were in school full-time, and they worked to make ends meet. At the same time, they want to serve and give back. They care about others and about improving lives for those around them. What shone through the sunlight that bright Saturday morning was that these students were not just smart — they were also happy. Interestingly, their happiness derived from how they help each other. The more I think about the values our students reflect, I realized that these students embody what Shawn Autor refers to – Happiness is a work ethic.
We live at a time when the news we see and hear every day, every hour on TV, in the papers, on social media, is negative and divisive. So-called leaders are unable to lead, much less inspire others to follow. Can they take a lesson from our students’ playbook? Can we teach them to be civil to each other? Can we share the message that happiness has to do with reaching out and helping others? Can we share the simple message of service that our students completely embrace? Martin Luther King Jr. showed us that we can dare to care and care about all humanity.
On that bright and sunny Saturday morning at Hermann Park, I realized that our students were not just digging dirt — they were happy to wake up early on a Saturday morning, to work with heavy shovels, to help replant trees. They were happy in the knowledge that they served others. Maybe if Shawn Autor had been with us that morning, he would have commented that to Bauer students, Service is a work ethic.